Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart - ISN - The Victoria Cougars used three power-play goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit and defeat the Saanich Braves 3-2 Friday night in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) action at Pearkes Arena.
There was a definite playoff atmosphere in Pearkes Arena, as this marked the first meeting of the year between the division rival Cougars and Braves, both of whom sit in first and second respectively in the VIJHL standings.It was this mood and atmosphere that initially favoured the Braves, as they came out flying and when Liam Sproule scored on the Braves first shot on net just 52 seconds into the game, the Saanich fans exploded.
Liam Sproule celebrates his first minute goal that would give the Braves a 1-0 lead Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Braves would use the energy from that first goal to fore-check and confuse the Cougars early and would get the crowd to their feet again when Josh Gray gave the Cougars a taste of their own power-play medicine, one-timing a beautiful pass from Garrett Kemmler past Victoria's starting goalie Evan Roch with the Cougar's Jake Daughtry in the box for roughing.
The Cougars would begin to respond late in the period, ultimately firing 15 shots on Saanich net minder Tanner McGaw, but went into the break with Saanich holding the 2-0 lead.
In the second period, the Braves would get away from their game plan slightly and become undisciplined, with Kevin Massy taking a boarding penalty just two minutes in. The Cougar's deadly power-play, which scored 5 goals the night before against Westshore, went to work quickly, with Sam Rice burying a shot past McGaw just 30 seconds into the man advantage to get the Cougars on the board.
Saanich's Seamus Maguire moves the puck out of his zone during first period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Team Captains Ty Jones and Brody Coulter battle for the puck off a face off during Friday's action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Just four minutes later, the Cougars once again went on the powerplay thanks to a Jordan Groenhyde tripping call, and once again, they would score within the first 30 seconds, with Dane Feeney taking a nice feed from Brody Coulter and firing it over the shoulder of McGaw to tie the game 2-2.
Shortly after that the Cougars looked to have taken the lead on another Feeney goal that saw him crash the crease and put himself, McGaw, the Brave defender and the puck into the net before it was knocked off the moorings, however referee Aaron Keller ruled the puck never crossed the line and the score stayed knotted at 2-2 to the second intermission.
Cougar Captain Brody Coulter would have a pair of assist in the 3-2 win over Saanich Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The third period was a classic Junior B hockey battle with both sides exchanging chances, but not able to score.
Just when it appeared that the game would be headed to overtime, another undisciplined, and some would say blatantly stupid penalty was assessed to the Braves Nick Kapusty who skated almost half-way across the ice and pasted a Cougar player into the boards from behind.
This put the deadly Cougar power play back on the ice, and although the Braves managed a couple of key penalty kills in the second period, their luck would not hold this time, and Graham Zagrodney's point shot would find the top corner behind a screened McGaw, giving the Cougars a 3-2 lead with 1:46 to play.
The Braves would pull their goalie, late but could not find the equalizer and the game ended with the Cougars celebrating the big win in championship fashion, with defenceman Jake Stolz jumping into the arms of goaltender Evan Roch.
Graham Zagrodney celebrates the Cougar's go-ahead goal Friday with his teammates (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Game Notes: Garrett Kemmler, Liam Sproule and Sam McMullen were all back in the line-up Friday for the Braves. Midget AA Brave Scott Henderson was called up but saw limited action in the first period. Victoria outshot the Braves 36-27. Three stars were not announced but credit would have to be given to Victoria's Brody Coulter (2 assists), Dane Feeney (goal) and Zagrodney (game winner), and to Saanich's Ty Jones (2 assists) and Tanner McGaw (33 saves).
Cougar defenceman Jake Stolz jumps into the arms of goaltender Evan Roch after the emotional win over the Braves (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)